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#91: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

By Brian Prisco | Books | June 8, 2009 |

By Brian Prisco | Books | June 8, 2009 |

I often compared Murakami to Kurosawa, because I am a narrow-minded racist, but also because before I was acquainted with their works, I thought they were works that people bandied around to sound more intellectual. But then after actually experiencing it for myself, I realized that while cerebral and dreamily existential, they’re also amazingly badass.

I’ve only read two other Murakami before this, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Hard Boiled Wonderland. I found them both to be great reads, but I also felt there were almost a little too out there for my personal tastes. I had trouble accessing them as much as I would have liked. It didn’t necessarily hinder my appreciation, but it made me a little reticent to pick up the works. It’s the same reason I tend to space out foreign films — it’s a world I need to hold my breath before I dive into, and I can’t stay there too long without coming up for air.

Kafka on the Shore was different. I was drawn into the narrative immediately, which spills out slowly, as it changes between the two main characters: Kafka, a young 15-year-old runaway who holes up in a library to escape an Oedipal prophecy, and Nakata, a mental deficient who speaks to cats. Indeed, it’s weird that I was able to access this novel, particularly since it’s a ghost story involving talking cats. But Murakami’s style is so natural everything over the top just works.

I think that the supernatural works better in the older foreign cultures. For some reason, ghosts work when they exist in Japan, Italy, England. And this ghost story is particularly bizarre. The strange beauty comes as the two stories interweave. Not because it’s startling or shocking, but because it’s so outstanding. Murakami infuses his story with a multitude of fascinating characters, and to explain them would be to give away pleasant surprises.

I had stalled on reading this, because I had assumed it would take me a really long time, as I find Murakami to be dense and heady, but this was practically a breeze. It’s a brilliant novel that had me grinning with delight.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Brian’s reviews, check his blog, The Gospel According to Prisco.

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